The International Olympics Committee has released a statement saying it will wait up to four weeks to decide the fate of the 2020 games in Tokyo, set to take place from July 24 through August 9. Japan has reportedly invested up to $41 billion in building venues and accommodations for the event according to The New York Times. As of March 20’s CDC report there were a total of 1,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan.
“Cancellation is not on the agenda,’’ the statement from International Olympics Committee president Thomas Bach said. “On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen the I.O.C.’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the I.O.C. could, with certain safety restrictions, organize Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved.”
However, Bach also added, “On the other hand, there is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents. This led the executive board to the conclusion that the I.O.C. needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning. A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore. The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”
Last week, Japanese Olympic Committee board member Kaori Yamaguchi, winner of a bronze medal in judo at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, called upon the Olympics to be postponed in light of the fact that participating athletes aren’t able to adequately prepare for the competition. “The Olympics should not be held in a situation people in the world can’t enjoy,” Yamaguchi said. “As far as I can tell, athletes in the United States and Europe are unable to train as normal and finish their qualifying matches. That makes it impossible for them to appear well prepared at the start, with all the associated risks.”
International Olympic Committee member Hayley Wickenheiser also said carrying on with the Games of the XXXII Olympiad would be “insensitive and irresponsible,” taking to Twitter to say, “This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics. Athletes can’t train. Attendees can’t travel plan.”
The postponement of the Summer Olympics would be the latest casualty of a pandemic that has put virtually every sector of the entertainment industry on pause — from movie-theater exhibition, production, and distribution, to Broadway productions, and major sporting events such as the NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and MBA baseball seasons.
More on the Committee’s recent statement over at The New York Times here.